Non-Profit Leadership: How to Deal with the Dilemma of Software

As non-profits grow we increasingly become dependent on software to enable us to use technology for our capability to function. From emails to data bases to outside software programs, we are literally bound to software in more ways than we can fathom. The current cybersecurity threats and fears are evidence that if we become hacked we could literally become helpless to function. We have those discussions with our Technology Services Department on a regular basis. It is an important discussion to regularly maintain.

What is also important is that we take proper precautions when we utilize new software. I have seen some great advantages as well as some horrific consequences of installing new software.I have become quite skeptical at times if what is offered to us really will work like it has been promised. One of the hard realities is that we often do not know exactly what will happen when we install new software unless we take a number of precautionary steps prior to its installation.  Here are a few learning thoughts that I have experienced for those non-profits who are growing into the space of increased software dependence.

  1. Recognize that technology marketers do not always present their software packages accurately. Particularly if you have very specific tasks it is important to make sure those tasks are possible within their software capabilities.
  2. Do a significant amount of due diligence and research on the software you intend to use.
  3. Make sure your software company has strong support for its users.
  4. Your software company should provide thorough training processes for your users.
  5. Get as much knowledge from experts as possible. It is important to have a good working relationship with your technology staff since it is possible that some software products can conflict with other programs that are being utilized.  
  6. Talk to the key users within your non-profit to make sure the software you select will address the tasks they are attempting to achieve.
  7. Run a test on the software before making it live. If you already have functioning software that it is replacing, run the test side-by-side with the old software.
  8. Allow more time than is promised to set timelines for implementation.
  9. Allow staff proper training time before expecting them to be able to utilize the software.
  10. Develop a set of policies and procedures for software use within your organization. One of the ways cybersecurity becomes compromised is when staff utilizes unauthorized software that is either illegal or open to hacking that can penetrate your firewalls and cause a major software shut-down. 

I am sure there are other issues that can be compromising but from my own experience these ideas are a good beginning to help us think carefully about software use in our non-profits. It is meant to be a tool to help us do our mission more effectively. That last thing any of us needs is for it to compromise our security, be ineffective or in the worst case, to jeopardize our mission.

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